Music Therapy Program Makes the Holidays Shine

PCDA Choir Music Therapy The PCDA NoteAbles Choir performs the Winter Recital on Zoom.

Her wide grin is infectious, and her delight is obvious. Dominique, a 21-year-old client of Professional Child Development Associates (PCDA), showcased her musical talents during the organization’s annual Winter Recital, made possible in part by a Yes, Virginia grant from Pasadena Community Foundation (PCF). Dominique has cerebral palsy, and from her wheelchair, she performed a unique “Jingle Bells-Uptown Funk” mash-up during the recital, broadcast virtually on December 11 via Zoom. The recital featured nearly one dozen members of the NoteAbles Choir and captured the uplifting and supportive aspects of PCDA’s music therapy program.

PCDA is a clinic-based nonprofit agency that serves children who have a wide range of diagnoses, including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, ADHD, and other developmental challenges. Using a broad range of therapies, clinicians strive to help each client gain self-confidence and a sense of self-purpose; they also facilitate clients’ connection to others.

Music Therapy Connects & Strengthens Relationships

A treasured part of PCDA’s services is its Creative Arts Department, which includes music therapy services, adapted music lessons, an adapted choir, an adapted drama program, and a creative arts summer program. PCDA believes strongly that the arts are essential to connect and strengthen relationships, and that music, art, and drama allow clients to express themselves in an alternative manner.

More than 60 clients participate in the music therapy program, which includes the NoteAbles Choir featured at the Winter Recital. While performance or instrument proficiency is not the primary goal, it often ends up being a by-product. For viewers of the virtual Winter Recital, that fact was apparent: One chorister sang a beautiful rendition of “Oh, Holy Night,” while another showcased an original synthesizer composition; the event ended with a delightful group rendition of “Here Comes the Sun.”

Creating a Safe Space for Families

Choir Director Anna Needham recognizes that families appreciate the safe space for their children to practice and learn, as well as the fun of seeing them perform at community events. “For this core group of kids, they have really formed such a special bond, and parents have too. The music therapy program gives them all a community to relate to and the chance to celebrate the successes of every child in the choir.”

Prior to COVID-19, Anna provided at-home services for Dominique, who has received music therapy from PCDA clinicians for 11 years and participated in the choir for eight years. To communicate, she uses an augmentative communication tool called a Tobii Device, which relies on a user’s eye gaze. With it, Dominique is able to make her love of pop music quite clear. Anna says, “she loves initiating music, and this give her team the ability for reciprocal interactions with her. With her family’s dedicated support, it feels like we’re all focusing on Dominique as a team. She’s just so engaged during this therapy.”

music therapy student at PCDA
PCDA client Dominique pictured at the 2019 PCDA Winter Recital.

For the fifth straight year, PCF’s Yes, Virginia grant has helped PCDA students like Dominque shine at the Winter Recital and has supported PCDA’s vital music therapy program. Learn more about the Yes, Virginia Grants and the 2020 recipients here.